Many people are first introduced to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, also called AA, by a judge or a parole officer who tells them to attend some meetings. Others walk into that first meeting of their own accord or at the request of a loved one. Although Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization, many AA meetings are held in churches. There are a number of meetings available at different dates and times. Smaller cities will have less variety than larger ones.

While there are different types of meetings – closed meetings, which are only open to alcoholics or people who think they are alcoholics; open meetings, which are open to anyone interested in the disease of alcoholism or speaker meetings, which feature a main speaker – most groups follow a basic format.

Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings are Filled with Recovering Alcoholics

When a new person arrives at his first AA meeting, he is likely to see people talking, drinking coffee and saying hello to their friends. People often sit in chairs arranged in a circle. Some meetings are large and some meetings are small. Almost everyone is there because they want to be.

A chairperson opens the meeting, usually by asking for a moment of silence followed by a group recitation of the Serenity Prayer. Someone usually reads the AA Preamble taken from the Alcoholics Anonymous text known as the Big Book. Sometimes another reading from the Big Book called The Promises is read. People attending their first meeting will have an opportunity to introduce themselves by giving their first name if they want to, but it’s not required.

Most of the AA Meeting Time Will Be Taken Up by the Discussion

After the readings, a discussion leader starts the topic by speaking about something related to alcoholism and recovery. After the discussion leader opens, other members will speak. People introduce themselves by saying “My name is _____________________ and I am an alcoholic,” and then begin sharing on the discussion topic or any other recovery-related subject they need to talk about.

People may share about how they got sober. They may talk about the 12 steps or about the importance of getting a sponsor or about going to a meeting every day for 90 days. No one is required to talk during a meeting. A person who does not want to speak will not be put on the spot.

After the discussion portion of the meeting is over, a basket will be passed to honor of the 7th Tradition, which states that “every AA group should be self-supporting.” There is no requirement to put any money into the basket, and no one notices if someone doesn’t. While the basket is going around, the chairperson will ask for AA-related announcements.

AA Meetings Offer White Chips to Newcomers

Before ending the meeting, different colored chips are offered to alcoholics who have stayed sober for certain continuous periods of time – 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months, nine months and one year. A white chip is offered to anyone who wishes to stay sober or who has relapsed. If a new person wants to pick up a chip, but feels uncomfortable doing that in front of a group, it is completely acceptable to ask the chairperson for one after the meeting has ended.

Usually the meeting ends in a standing circle and with another group recitation of the Serenity Prayer. Some people may need to have meeting attendance sheets signed for a court officer or treatment center. The chairperson will be happy to sign these after the closing prayer. After the meeting, people may offer a new person their name or number in case the newcomer wants to call and ask any questions about AA or the program.

Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping people get sober since 1935. Alcoholics who have abuse issues with other mood or mind altering substances, may also want to investigate AA’s offspring fellowship, Narcotics Anonymous.